Berrysmith Foundation

A Bug's Life

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

It might be the change in the weather; April started with cool mornings but quickly climbing to a sunny 32°C for about a week and just when I got used to the ‘melting moments’, it changed to a cool & all day rain again. Followed by days with a mixture of hot sunny weather and rain.

Or is it because I’m currently focussing on studying the soil, daily being close to the ground while weeding, planting and harvesting. Anyway the many insects and other animal life have caught my eye recently. Everywhere in the gardens I meet more unfamiliar bugs, spiders, snails and animals! Ok I’m here to learn to work WITH nature, but it is not an easy task to do things right as there is a constant battle going on outside in the field where aphids are teaming up with caterpillars feeding on the snake beans.

The snails and birds are nibbling on the cucumbers. On the tomato plants I found a very big shield bug.

African Snail

And the big African snails made a whole bed of lettuce seedlings vanish in a week! But appeared satisfied and didn’t venture out to the next bed (?)

Rather by using an insecticide for these problems I work towards getting an understanding and help the plants combat these predators by observing and testing their brix levels on a daily basis.

My teacher Mike Smith calls the brix/refractor meter;”the farmers best friend and should be in every farmers back pocket. Brix testing is one of the most important tools for a biological farmer. It is the only way we can talk to the plant and find out what is going on.”

Brix Testing on Tomatoes

In my case trying to find out what type of food the plants mentioned above need to increase their brix level and make them less attractive for insects, snails and animals.

This theory works a bit similar to taking extra vitamin C when you have a cold or eating a banana for when your blood sugar levels are low.

Ants Cleaning Up

Indoors is also no safe ground; there are ants & termites ‘helping with the dishes’ by helping themselves to some food left behind, so I’m often cleaning to make the place less attractive for them and more peaceful for me.

There are still plenty of mosquito’s attacking me and the only help I have to reduce their numbers is to allow gecko’s running around over the ceiling and windows.

Black Lizard

I do find it hard to agree with big (+25 cm head to tail) wiggly black lizards trying to claim their spot in the couch. Luckily I can call on a very brave teenage neighbour who is capable to grab these ‘monsters’ and flick them outside.

Hoping they all would behave and stay outside when Sharyn a study friend from Lincoln’s BHU was here this April for a work experience.

Sharyn brought me another ‘bug’; a Kombucha, this is a ‘mushroom’ or scoby that looks like a jelly-like membrane and floats in a solution of tea and sugar exposed to oxygen and in a couple of days produces a drink that taste like apple juice and has a reputation for healing hundreds of different ailments as long as you drink responsibly. I’m very pleased with this bug’s first brew, and hope it will live happily on my kitchen bench.

Thank you very much Sharyn and Teresa!

Earlier this month I noticed some elderberry flowers, which I was told ‘grows here like a weed’. I’m more than happy to help keeping this problem contained by picking the flower heads for producing a small batch of elderflower champagne and syrup.

SHP Team

As with the bugs there are also many trees and plants and other factors I need to learn more about and how they play a role in the world of growing vegies in Samoa and/or being beneficial. And it’s not just me who is learning here, the whole Soil Health Pacific team had a day of learning this month, mixed with good food and fun!

And as long as those black lizards stay outside I’m happy here, so greetings to you all from Samoa!

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